Developer denied request for zoning variance Hill wanted to build larger, costlier homes in N. Carroll Farms IV

April 11, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Hampstead's Board of Zoning Appeals has denied developer Martin K. P. Hill's request for a zoning variance that would have permitted him to build larger, more expensive homes in his North Carroll Farms IV subdivision.

Last month, Hill applied for a reduction in the town's rear and side yard setback requirements for 148 single-family homes. In some cases, the variance would have reduced the yard space between the new houses and the homes of adjacent property owners in the North Carroll Farms development.

Board members, who heard Hill's request Wednesday, found that the developer faced no hardship or unique circumstance that would permit them to grant a variance.

Said board Chairwoman Denise Justice of the developer: "They were aware of the town code when they started this development and if they weren't, well, shame on them. They've done enough building in Hampstead."

Board member Vince Corsaro said that the ruling doesn't prevent Hill from building smaller houses on the lots.

"I see the variance request as a benefit to the developer and not the community," he said.

About 25 people, most of them homeowners in other sections of North Carroll Farms, attended Wednesday's hearing.

James Piet, director of land acquisition for Hill's construction company, Woodhaven Building and Development, told the board that infrastructure work on North Carroll Farms IV -- including road construction and water and sewer installation -- had been completed based on design layouts used in Hill's earlier Hampstead projects, Roberts Field and Small Crossings.

"We assumed we could build using the same setbacks," he said.

Piet said he's unsure how Woodhaven plans to handle the board's ruling. He said options include redesigning the lots, appealing the decision or building smaller houses on some lots.

"We're trying to save what we have in the ground," he said.

The Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission gave final approval to the North Carroll Farms IV development in August 1994, but zoning disputes and legal battles have delayed construction work on the project for more than 18 months. Plans call for 148 single-family homes and 72 townhouses.

In September, after lengthy legal negotiations, Hampstead Town Council and Hill came to an agreement in which the developer would receive building permits for North Carroll Farms IV in exchange for infrastructure improvements in the subdivision and donation of land for open space.

However, when Hill applied for building permits, town zoning administrator Neil Ridgely found that some of the homes did not meet the setback requirements under Hampstead's zoning code.

In his variance application, Hill requested a reduction in the rear yard setback requirement, which sets the distance from the back of the house to the property line, from 35 to 25 feet, and asked that the total space between the side property lines be reduced from 25 to 20 feet.

At the zoning hearing, some North Carroll Farms property owners argued that granting the variance would lead to decreased property values and change the character of the spacious neighborhood.

"His [Hill's] argument seems to be, 'We've done it in the past and gotten away with it, why can't we do it now?' " said Brian Winebrunner. "I believe Marty Hill hasn't given a compelling reason as to why he needs the setback changes except he wants to put larger houses on smaller lots."

Piet told the board that the variance would improve the aesthetics of the development by making it possible to vary the placement of homes on the lots.

"It looks a little better than a cookie cutter-type development," he said.

Pub Date: 4/11/97

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